The American Legion is the voice of nearly 1.6 million U.S. military veterans and servicemembers. A resolution–based organization, The American Legion’s positions represent the views of its members.
Mental Health & Suicide Prevention
The leading issue facing the veteran community is suicide. The suicide rate amongst veterans is nearly double that of their civilian counterparts with more than 6,000 veterans losing their lives to suicide annually. It is imperative that we simultaneously destigmatize asking for mental health assistance while increasing access to a variety of services along the mental health continuum. The American Legion encourages Congress to enhance access to alternative therapies, robustly fund VA’s suicide prevention outreach budget, and continue to invest in mental health research.
VA Healthcare Modernization
The future of VA healthcare is as a hybrid system consisting of VHA-provided inpatient and outpatient care, telehealth, and community care. Ensuring VA is equipped to meet the unique needs of an increasingly diverse veteran population requires that VA fully leverage all healthcare modalities and ensure a seamless transition between them. Modernizing electronic health records, veteran centric access standards, and a transparent online scheduling system for both VHA-provided care and community care is essential to ensuring our veterans receive the care they deserve. The means by which VA delivers care may change, but one thing will not: VA should continue to deliver the best care anywhere to our nation’s veterans.
PACT Act: Implementation & Oversight
The passage of the SFC Heath Robinson PACT Act in the 117th Congress ensured millions of toxic exposed veterans will now have the access to healthcare and compensation they rightfully deserve. VA estimates that there will be approximately 6 to 7 million new disability claims filed as a result of eligibility expansion under the PACT Act and anticipates the claims backlog will increase to 450,000 by October of 2023. The efforts put forth by the VBA workforce to reduce claims backlogs in the past have been admirable but substantial backlogs of hundreds of thousands of claims for sustained periods of time is not acceptable. It is imperative that VA fully leverage the resources made available in the PACT Act to assist in the continued modernization of VBA information technology systems as well as the hiring of additional employees to ensure veterans claims are adjudicated in a timely manner. The American Legion urges congress to provide the necessary oversight and funding to ensure VA has the resources they need to properly implement this legislation.
Protect Veterans from Predatory Actors
America’s veterans are being targeted by predatory actors that seek to profit from an array of benefits that have been rightfully earned by those who have served our nation. From claims companies that charge exorbitant fees for services provided free of charge by veteran service organizations to lawyers vying for billions of dollars set aside for victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination, veterans are met by promises of large pay outs if they will agree to surrender substantial portions of their benefit. Predatory actors often attempt to overwhelm veterans with aggressive marketing tactics and complicated contracts to profit from their benefits. The American Legion urges Congress to oppose any legislation that seeks to elevate the standing of unaccredited predatory claims companies by legitimizing practices that target veterans and impose a cap on legal services provided in association with the Camp Lejune Justice Act.
Currently, 42,000 military retirees with combat-related injuries qualify for retirement pay for their service from DoD, and compensation for service-connected disabilities from VA. However, for retired veterans with a disability rating less than 50%, their VA compensation is deducted from their DoD retirement pay. The American Legion strongly supports ending this unfair policy of forcing many military retirees to forfeit their retired pay to receive equal amounts of disability compensation. The Major Richard Star Act would repeal this draconian offset, allowing disabled veterans to concurrently receive both their retirement pay and their disability compensation.
Guard & Reserve GI Bill Parity
National Guard and Reserve servicemembers are being deprived of education benefits that active-duty servicemembers enjoy, despite completing the same duties. According to the law, as it is currently written, National Guard and Reserve servicemembers only accrue GI Bill entitlement when called to active duty under federal orders. When National Guard and Reserve servicemembers are activated under state orders, they do not accrue eligibility for Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits like their active-duty counterparts do. The American Legion believes that every day in uniform counts, and urges Congress to recognize the service of National Guard and Reserve servicemembers as eligible for the GI Bill.
GI Bill for Honorable Service
To receive most VA benefits, a veteran's character of discharge or service must be "under honorable conditions." However, education assistance benefits, within the GI Bill, has a requirement that servicemembers receive an "honorable discharge." If the character of service is "general under honorable conditions", the Post-9/11 GI Bill remains out of reach for these veterans. The American Legion urges Congress to correct this statutory incongruity by amending U.S. Code to allow access to VA educational assistance to veterans with general under honorable conditions discharges.
Support our Afghan Allies
We have a code in the U.S. military, “no one left behind.” For two decades, we fought shoulder-to-shoulder with brave Afghan allies who served with and protected American forces, fighting for the freedom of Afghanistan and its people. We must honor the promises we made as a nation and are duty-bound to fulfill. We must provide genuine and lasting protection to the Afghans who have made it safely to the U.S and to those who have been left behind. The American Legion urges congress to reintroduce and pass the legislation that would grant permanent legal status to Afghan refugees and improve the Special Immigrant Visa process for Afghans who served alongside U.S. servicemembers.
Military Quality of Life
The U.S. military’s greatest resources are individual servicemembers and their families. Without highly qualified and committed men and women, even the most sophisticated weaponry will not provide the deterrent force necessary to defend our nation. Factors that contribute to quality-of-life include proper compensation, equal opportunities for career development, appropriate housing, quality healthcare, reasonably priced commissaries, and access to affordable day care. The American Legion urges congress to pass legislation that would increase access to childcare for military families, increase appropriations to address matters involving servicemember food insecurity, and increase funding for renovating of military housing.
Pay the Coast Guard
U.S. Coast Guard personnel carry out missions vital to our national security, but they are the only military branch working without pay during government shutdowns, due to their status under the Department of Homeland Security. The repeated and common threat of government shutdowns brings severe and unnecessary hardship on these men, women, and their families. The American Legion urges Congress to reintroduce and pass the Unwavering Support for our Coast Guard Act, which would guarantee that Coast Guard personnel are paid without delay, even in the case of a government shutdown.
Protect the American Flag
The American Legion urges Congress to approve an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the U.S. flag. Additionally, The American Legion urges Congress to pass the Flag Code Modernization Act of 2021 to amend the U.S. Flag Code to codify multiple common patriotic customs and practices as described in The American Legion Resolution No. 19: Flag Code Amendment.
To download a PDF of The American Legion Legislative Agenda for the 118th Congress brochure click here.